Lately, I keep seeing these memes.
I know they are meant to encourage people to get in shape. I know it’s supposed to be motivational. And I guess, in it’s own way, it is motivational and encouraging. But it’s also not entirely accurate.
Being fat – just the act of being fat – is not hard. The consequences of being fat – those are hard. The damage that being fat does to your joints, heart, circulatory system, endocrine system, self esteem – those are hard. The damage that being fat does to your furniture (it’s a real thing – we’ve had to purchase more furniture in the last ten years than I had purchased in the 20+ years prior to that), your vehicles, your ability to buy clothing – those are all real consequences, and hard to deal with. But being fat, in and of itself, is easy.
Losing weight isn’t all that hard, either. It takes dedication and commitment, but it’s not hard to cut back on what you’re eating. It’s not difficult to take a walk every evening instead of sitting on your butt on the couch. Maintaining weight loss isn’t all that difficult, either, if you maintain that dedication and commitment. Maybe it isn’t easy, but it’s not the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
Getting up every morning, making the decision not to go back to old habits, and making myself make better choices at each meal – now THAT is hard. Getting back on the horse after a weekend of not so great food choices – that’s hard, too. Commitment to your goals, whether to lose weight, save money to buy a car or house, finish that college degree – commitment is hard. In fact, it may be the hardest thing we do on a daily basis.
My point here, if I actually have one, is that I think this meme simplifies a complex problem. Most people aren’t fat by choice, despite what society thinks. A while back, I read about a study done on obesity and the way people were taught about food as children.
“All those starving children in Africa would love to have the food you won’t eat.”
“Food is love.”
“Clean your plate or you won’t get anything else tonight.”
“You will sit there until you eat those vegetables!”
“If you don’t eat it tonight, you will get it for breakfast tomorrow. And if you don’t eat it then, you’ll get it for lunch. And I will continue to serve it to you until you eat it. You will eat when you’re hungry!”
Do you see your childhood in any of that? I personally do not. My mother never made us eat anything we really didn’t want to eat. She also made sure that there was at least one item on the table each day that we would eat. And if we really didn’t like something she served, we could make ourselves a sandwich, a can of soup, or a frozen meal that could be heated up in the microwave. She never forced us to eat anything.
As a child, I despised vegetables. HATED them. Now I love them, and eat a lot of them. I found the way I like to eat them, which isn’t the way my mother cooked them. On the other hand, I would eat meatloaf as a child, even though it was never my favorite. Now, you couldn’t force me to eat it, no matter how hungry I may be.
I never forced my children to eat anything they didn’t like, either, though my former in-laws did. And I think that forcing or guilting children in to eating foods they don’t like or aren’t hungry enough to eat leads to a plethora of eating disorders. I never wanted my kids to have that sort of issue, and fortunately, they don’t seem to have eating disorders as adults. I don’t always agree with my son’s choices, but they are HIS choices.
I have hope that some day, my son will change the way he eats, and before he has a weight problem, but that’s his choice to make.